Blame it on Selfish Ambition

By: Jayla Storms

What is to blame for Macbeth's downfall?

Although Lady Macbeth encouraged Macbeth to kill King Duncan, his selfish ambitions led him down an even darker path.


Macbeth had already began to consider killing King Duncan before Lady Macbeth had heard about the witches' prophecies. Macbeth was reluctant to kill Duncan at first, but he figured if he wanted to become king, something had to happen to Duncan. Macbeth explained how he didn't want "...light [to] see [his] black and deep desires" (1.4. 59). Macbeth didn't want to be the one who had to kill Duncan, but, in the end, he let his greed take over.

After Macbeth became king, he used his title to persuade lawbreakers into committing even more crimes for him. He wanted them to kill Banquo and his son because he felt like they were a threat to his throne. Macbeth told them,"...I will put that business in your bosoms whose execution takes your enemy off, grapples you to the heart and love of us"(3.1. 112-114). Macbeth knew that the murderers would do it for him because they were poor and did not have anything, and being offered a chance to make it in good with the king could really turn their lives around.
Macbeth wanted to kill Macduff because he wanted to make sure Malcolm would get the throne back from Macbeth. Macbeth couldn't go after Macduff because he went to England with Malcolm. He decided to go to Macduff's castle and kill,"...his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line" (4.1. 175-176). If Macbeth couldn't get to Macduff, he'd take away everything else from him. Throughout all of this, Macbeth is only concerned about where his royalty came into play.

Literary Devices

Hyperbaton ~ "Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!"(2.2. 96).

At first when Macbeth killed Duncan, he couldn't live with the guilt. Macbeth had just came out of Duncan's room after killing him. He was carrying the daggers he used to kill Duncan, and couldn't take them back to the scene of the crime because he didn't want to look at what he had done to Duncan. Lady Macbeth returned the daggers and placed them by Duncan to make it look like his servants committed the crime. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth heard knocking on the door, and Macbeth said,"Wake Duncan with they knocking! I would thou couldst!"(2.2. 96). A hyperbaton is being used because of the placement of the words. Normally it would say,"I wish you could wake Duncan with your knocking." Instead the author twisted the sentence around to make the most important part stand out. Macbeth is wishing the person knocking was able to wake Duncan up. The reader knows Macbeth just killed Duncan, so it's showing he's already regretting his decision.

Irony ~ "Here had we now our country's honor, roofed, were the graced person of our Banquo present; Who may I rather challenge for unkindness than pity for mischance!"(3.4. 51-54).

Even though Macbeth had Banquo killed, he still talked highly of him. Macbeth ordered his murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance, his son, before the feast he was having. During the feast, Macbeth addresses Banquo's absence, saying,"Here had we now our country's honor, roofed, were the graced person of our Banquo present; Who may I rather challenge for unkindness than pity for mischance!"(3.4. 51-54). Irony is shown here because only Macbeth and the murderers know that Banquo is not gone by choice. Macbeth says he's hoping nothing bad happened to Banquo even though he knows he is dead. The readers know the real meaning behind Macbeth's statement, while the characters are left clueless.

Hubris ~ "Thou losest labor. As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air with thy keen sword impress as make me bleed" (5.8. 11-13).

According to the witches' prophecies, Macbeth is invincible. Macbeth and Macduff are fighting, and Macbeth tells Macduff,"Thou losest labor. As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air with thy keen sword impress as make me bleed" (5.8. 11-13). Hubris is shown here because of Macbeth's attitude. He's comparing himself to the air, and how Macduff might as well be stabbing the air with his sword because he can't hurt him. This shows the readers how Macbeth views himself, and people that surround him.

How does "The Family that Preys" connect with Macbeth?

In the movie "The Family that Preys" by Tyler Perry, even though William Cartwright seems to have it all, his mistakes make him lose it all. The character William, portrayed by actor Cole Hauser, was very power-hungry, like Macbeth. William's family owns a construction company, and he's determined to take control of it. His mother, Charlotte, will not turn the business over to him. William tries to prove that he deserves the job by closing a deal with another company behind her back. The only problem was that the deal would require the company to pay money in advance, and the only way for it to be afforded is if Charlotte sells ten percent of her shares. This would be beneficial to William because if she sells her shares, she won't have a large impact for votes. William wants his mom voted off of the company board, and she wouldn't be able to vote against his decision. This relates to Macbeth because when he learned he was to become king, he wanted Duncan gone so he could take over the throne. Both William and Macbeth did what they thought was necessary to achieve what they wanted to achieve.


William was having an affair with Andrea Bennett, who worked at the company as an accountant. Her husband, Chris, worked with the actual construction part of the company. Chris wanted to start his own construction firm, and asked Andrea to talk to William for him about investing in his company. Andrea told him William had better things to do than help him out, as he was a multi-millionaire. Chris began asking other construction companies, and when William found out, he confronted Andrea. He told her he was going to fire Chris because he didn't want competition and it wasn't good for business. This also relates to Macbeth because he had Banquo killed because he felt like he was a threat to his throne. He also had Macduff's family killed because he couldn't get to Macduff. He killed them because Macduff was trying to help Malcolm, Duncan's son, get the throne back from Macbeth. Both Macbeth and William didn't want a challenge to come between their ultimate goals.

TYLER PERRY'S THE FAMILY THAT PREYS - Trailer

How does Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around...Comes Around" relate to Macbeth's downfall?

What Goes Around...Comes Around By: Justin Timberlake

"Don't wanna think about it

Don't wanna talk about it

I'm just so sick about it

I can't believe it's ending this way"


Even though Macbeth thought he was unbeatable, he ultimately destroyed himself. The witches told Macbeth that he'd never be harmed by anyone woman-born, which gave him confidence that he wouldn't be killed by anyone and he'd die of natural causes. When Macduff finds out that Macbeth had his family killed, he wanted to fight Macbeth. When they go to battle, Macbeth tells Macduff that he isn't able to be harmed by anyone who was born from a woman, so he's wasting his time. Macduff then tells Macbeth that"...[he] was from his mother's womb untimely ripped"(5.8. 19-20). Macbeth realizes the witches tricked him into having false confidence, but doesn't want to give up and give his crown to Malcolm. He decides to fight Macduff until death. The lyrics represent what Macbeth was thinking and feeling after he understood his fate. He spent a long time building up his confidence since Duncan, and thinking he wouldn't be harmed. He never thought that he'd be caught and eventually be terminated for good.

*Lyrics are between 0:44 - 0:51 seconds*

Justin Timberlake - What Goes Around Comes Around HQ